Seemingly out of nowhere, a group of English investors announced plans for a new $400 million stadium for an expansion MLS team in Tampa...and the league appears interested. The concept has huge implications not just to the region's existing soccer leader, the Rowdies, but to the Rays' campaign for a new baseball stadium as well.
The roughly 25,000-seat facility, possibly with a retractable-roof, would be located "as close to downtown as we can possibly get," John Mitchell told the Tampa Tribune.
Hillsborough county commission chair Ken Hagen, one of the biggest proponents for a new Rays stadium, revealed tepid interest in the story, saying "We're open to it, if it makes sense." Hagen is obviously in an akward place, with few public dollars available in Hillsborough County and now, a new presumed suitor for public subsidies.
As for building the stadium without public funds, you can probably forget it. If a privately-funded Rays stadium in the middle of the region doesn't make sense to developers, you can bet a soccer stadium near the Brandon area will make even less.
A new MLS team could hurt the Rays in other ways too: Tampa Bay doesn't seem to have enough available personal income to support three major professional teams; adding a fourth slice of pie only stands to hurt attendance numbers of the Rays, Bucs, and Bolts.
Mitchell's group tells the Trib it plans to reveal more details on Dec. 11, aiming for a stadium opening in March 2016.